After 184 days on board the International Space Station, the UAE national left the orbital outpost on schedule at 3:05 p.m., UAE time, on Sunday.
Live coverage of Sultan al-Neyadi’s blast-off, on board a SpaceX Dragon capsule, captured the moment the UAE astronaut – who made history during his mission to become the first Arab to perform a spacewalk – waved a final farewell.
On his last day in space, al-Neyadi bid goodbye to his friends at the space station ahead of the capsule’s hatch closure and undocking.
He was seen donning his SpaceX suit as he performed a few final checks and awaited a final go-ahead from NASA’s mission control station in Houston, Texas.
He is now navigating an approximate 17-hour return journey to Earth alongside his crewmates NASA astronauts Stephen Bowen and Woody Hoburg and Russian cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev, with a scheduled splash down off the coast of Florida at approximately 8:07 a.m., UAE time, on Monday.
Hours before his departure, al-Neyadi posted on social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, for the final time.
“Space, this is not a goodbye. I will see you later, whether on a new mission to the ISS or a farther destination. I thank my beloved country for turning our dreams into achievements and all of you for your trust and affection,” he wrote.
“Wish us a safe return. We'll meet soon.”
Space, this is not a goodbye. I will see you later, whether on a new mission to the ISS or a farther destination.— Sultan AlNeyadi (@Astro_Alneyadi) September 3, 2023
I thank my beloved country for turning our dreams into achievements and all of you for your trust and affection.
Wish us a safe return. We'll meet soon. pic.twitter.com/wACH0UCIyu
On Friday, al-Neyadi also shared a video of his final glimpses of Earth from space, saying, “this beautiful view will always be etched in my mind.”
During his time in space, al-Neyadi was an avid social media user, telling his fans, space enthusiasts and followers about his missions in space and also sharing stunning images of countries and landmarks from across the globe.
The UAE astronaut completed 186 days in orbit and one spacewalk, totalling seven hours and one minute.
As well as completing the longest ever Arab space mission on ISS, al-Neyadi also worked with Saudi astronauts Ali al-Qarni and Rayyanah Barnawi – the first Arab woman ever sent into orbit - for eight days in May.
Across the UAE on Friday, electronic billboards showed a countdown to al-Neyadi’s arrival, saying “Safe Journey, Sultan.” The Emirati will be met with a hero’s welcome when he returns to his home country after undergoing medical evaluations in the US.
A farewell ceremony on Friday, live broadcast by NASA, saw the astronaut reflect on his time in space.
“Thank you to everyone who helped us accomplish this historic mission…an amazing time, six months, it felt really quick,” he said. “We worked here as one family…the six months of scientific research aboard the ISS were incredible.”
His mission saw al-Neyadi – who is only the second person from his country to fly to space and the first to launch from US soil as part of a long-duration space station team – conduct more than 200 experiments on the orbiting outpost.
Al-Neyadi conducted hundreds of experiments in space, ranging from human cell growth in space, controlling combustible materials in microgravity, tissue chip research on heart, brain, and cartilage functions, studying sleep quality intended to help develop therapies for astronauts to improve sleep quality and overall health during extended space missions, and the effects of microgravity on the human heart, as well as maintenance tasks onboard ISS.